We sat down to talk with an anonymous customer about why he decided to look for an AP automation solution, how he selected one, and how his life has changed since implementation.
In Part 1 of our conversation, Jack* talks about his company’s AP process before Esker and the specific features he looked for when comparing different solutions. Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Esker: Before we get into your story, could you describe your company, your role within the organization and your current IT landscape?
Jack: I’m the Associate Director of Systems Optimization and Disbursements. I manage a team of four individuals responsible for T&E, Accounts Payable and Credit Card programs.
We are a Global Pharmaceuticals company. In the US, SAP is our ERP system and it is used for requisitioning/ purchase order management and payment processing. Esker is used for invoice processing and invoice approval. Concur is used for T&E, Winshuttle is used for master data management and Zendesk is used for customer support.
Esker: Can you take us back to before you started working with Esker? What challenges was your company facing that caused you to look for an automation solution?
Jack: Basically, I was wearing my IT and master data hat when the current AP manager retired. I was given an additional job which was to come over to the AP side of the fence. And when I took over as manager, I saw that there was a lot of confusion. It was very difficult to find statuses of where we were at any point in time. We had a custom solution in place. It was a scan and key solution that was losing documents, and there were a lot of technical outages on the software.
But the main thing, from my perspective, was visibility. I couldn’t see where we were at any point in time. I didn’t know where the invoices were. I didn’t know how many invoices were outstanding. And I would always get mail with invoices that were six months to a year old. It was hard to get a handle on what was not working. I knew I wanted an automation solution and that the current setup we had was broken and had to be replaced.
Esker: When you decided to look for a solution, where did you start?
Jack: Like I said, I’ve been doing SAP configuration for a very long time, so I knew of Esker and the other products that were out there as well. We also shortlisted three vendors that were comparable and seemed to provide an equal set of tools.
We went through an analysis and were looking for OCR, the ability to track invoices throughout the lifecycle of an invoice, automated prioritization, auto extraction of invoice attachments and emails, mobile device capability, workflow routing, duplicate invoice checking, out-of-the-box dashboards and metrics and of course all at a reasonable cost.
We rated each of the companies on all criteria. We had all the companies come into our facility to demo their products and selected Esker after going through a rigorous approval process with the business.
Esker: What made Esker stand out during that process?
Jack: Backend integration with SAP, The Esker look and feel and of course cost were all key distinguishers that led us to select Esker. I loved the dashboard!
I liked the people that were bought in. I felt they were going to take care of us. They knew the product very well and could speak to some of the scenarios that we were trying to implement, maybe better than some of the other companies that came in.
Esker: You mentioned SAP a couple of times there — for both your ERP and for other things you had going on. Was the integration with SAP also important?
Jack: That was number one, really, underneath. I was not going to implement a standalone solution, and Esker absolutely offered that with the BAPI integration. We talked about how important that was right from the very beginning, and it was hard work, but we worked our way through that over a three to six months after implementation to get that 100%. But that was a key point for us.
Esker: And about how long did the entire process from the time you were brought in to take on these new responsibilities, identified the issues, and looked for a solution, to ultimately signing with Esker? How long did that process take?
Jack: I would say within six months of me taking on the new role, we had selected Esker.
Check out Part 2 of our conversation with Jack here, where he tells us about AP automation far exceeding his expectations and gives us some insight into a couple unique workflows he’s implemented with the Esker solution.
*name has been changed